The year-long delayed, and recently streamlined 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church has completed three days of concentrated action and worship in Baltimore, yielding four reasons to be excited. During that time the Bishops and Deputies adopted an amended version of Resolution C013 on Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott. It also adopted an amended version of Resolution C039 entitled Justice and Peace in the Holy Land - Our Call to Action. And, it adopted Resolution D024, Conditioning U.S. Military Assistance on Human Rights. And the House of Bishops also adopted the enigmatically titled Resolution A216, The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of the Holy Land.
Resolution C013 calls on "the President of the United States, the U.S. Congress, Governors, and State Legislatures to oppose legislation that penalizes or criminalizes support for all nonviolent boycotts, divestment and/or sanctions, especially on behalf of Palestinian human rights, as an infringement of First Amendment rights." According to Palestine Legal, more than 30 state legislatures and the federal government have proposed or passed legislation which would limit the rights of Americans to participate in a boycott of products coming from the illegal Israeli settlements or Israel itself. While several of the state laws have been successfully challenged in the courts, one of those victories was recently overturned on appeal and may be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court for further consideration. Adoption of Resolution C013 should allow The Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations (OGR) to oppose such legislation in meetings with legislators and via action alerts from the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN).
Resolution C039 recognizes "the right of the State of Israel to exist" AND "condemn[s] the continued occupation, segregation and oppression of the Palestinian people; recognizing that for Israel to continue as a democracy it must allow for equality of all its peoples;...". In the past year a growing library of documentation of Israel's discriminatory practices has been published by B'Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organization, by Human Rights Watch, by Amnesty International, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine. While not using the term apartheid, a second resolved also urges "the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress to take action to oppose Israeli laws and practices that result in unequal rights for two peoples." Again, adoption of Resolution C039 should allow the OGR to raise its voice with the Administration and on Capitol Hill, and to solicit broad opposition to anti-Palestinian discrimination via action alerts from the EPPN.
Unlike the previous two resolutions, which were considered first by Committee 7, Social Justice and International Policy, and began their courses toward adoption in the House of Bishops, Resolution D024 was heard by Committee 8, Social Justice and U.S. Policy, and advanced through the House of Deputies. The resolution reaffirms The Episcopal Church's "longstanding commitment to supporting human rights in our own countries and around the world, and to ensuring that U.S. military assistance and arms sales not be used to perpetuate conflict, violate human rights, or contribute to corruption, instability, or violence;...". More specifically, it resolves that the previously mentioned Office of Government Relations and the Episcopal Public Policy Network "support policies to oppose U.S. government military assistance, including the sale or provision of arms and related technologies such as surveillance equipment, to countries that have demonstrated well-documented, persistent, and egregious human rights abuses or severe corruption contributing to instability and conflict, and work to ensure that the United States government is not playing a role in furthering violent conflicts." While not specifically mentioning any country, we know that the Israelis receive the largest portion of U.S. military aid, and that Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are also in the Top Ten, so adoption of this Resolution should strengthen the Episcopal voice inside the Beltway of Washington, DC.
Unlike the other three resolutions, Resolution A216 falls into the category of Privilege and Courtesy resolutions which do not have to be passed by both houses. Usually they convey a message or recognize an individual or group for their work and witness. This resolution was generated in the House of Bishops, and is significant for the language it employs. Specifically, the resolution expresses "alarm at the escalating threat to the Christian presence" in Jerusalem and the Holy Land "from Israeli radical groups... actively seeking to undermine the Christian communities of the Holy Land". The resolution also offers the bishops' support to the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches for their efforts "to raise awareness of the plight of the Churches in the Holy Land;" and expresses "deep concern for the consequences for the ongoing life of the residents of the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem", following the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to uphold the claims of "a radical settler organization" on property of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem located at the Jaffa Gate. The Bishops concluded their message by promising to "pray and work for the stability, well-being, and prosperity of the Christian communities of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, especially in this season of increasing pressure from those who seek to change fundamentally the historic multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious character of the region." EPF PIN will be watching and encouraging those efforts as we look toward the next General Convention, only two years away!.
In addition to these resolutions, EPF PIN celebrated with our partners in The Consultation who also enjoyed successes, particularly in resolutions addressing racial inequities and care and ministering to Trans members of our Church. Read about these and other resolutions from The Consultation here.
In the coming days we hope to offer further additional news concerning the fate of other resolutions we were promoting and analysis about the actions taken at General Convention 80 in Baltimore. Stay in touch!
Thanks to the EPF PIN team who monitored the legislative sessions and Randy Heyn-Lamb who crafted the report with editorial assistance from Harry Gunkel.